Norway court approves extradition to France of 1982 Paris attack suspect

Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed at his French extradition request court hearing in Oslo District Court, September 25, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 25 September 2020

Norway court approves extradition to France of 1982 Paris attack suspect

  • Six people were killed when a group of men threw a grenade into the Jo Goldenberg restaurant and opened fire
  • The attack was blamed on the Abu Nidal Organization, a splinter group of the militant Palestinian Fatah group

OSLO, Norway: A Norwegian court on Friday approved an extradition request from France for a suspect linked to an attack in a Jewish neighborhood in Paris in 1982 that killed six people.
Friday’s ruling, which can be appealed, concerns only whether the legal grounds are met for an extradition. Once the judicial process is completed, the decision of whether or not to extradite Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed will ultimately be up to Norway’s justice ministry, or government.
Six people were killed when a group of men threw a grenade into the Jo Goldenberg restaurant and opened fire, setting off decades of legal wrangling and frustration for families of the victims.
The attack was blamed on the Abu Nidal Organization, a splinter group of the militant Palestinian Fatah group.
France has spent years pursuing Abu Zayed — one of four suspects with international arrest warrants against them — believing him to be one of the shooters.
Abu Zayed has lived in Norway since 1991 and has Norwegian citizenship, and the country has had a policy of not extraditing its nationals.
But a recently implemented deal between Norway, Iceland and the EU has ironed out the difficulties and paved the way for extradition.
“I oppose the extradition because I have nothing to do with the attack,” Abu Zayed told the Oslo court where he arrived under a police escort.
He has insisted he was in Monte Carlo at the time of the attack.
His lawyer, Ole-Martin Meland, said the French extradition request was “extremely flimsy.”
He argued that the conditions had not been met, including the absence of reciprocal extradition arrangements, Norway’s statute of limitations and the suspect’s failing health.
“We cannot deport a Norwegian citizen merely on the basis of hazy allegations,” the lawyer said.
While arguing that the legal conditions had been met, prosecutor Anne Karoline Bakken Staff highlighted a possible option for him to serve a sentence in Norway.
“I don’t like France,” the suspect said. “I don’t want to be imprisoned in France.”
The families of the victims of the attack, who have been demanding a trial for nearly four decades, have pinned their hopes on his extradition.
“It is symbolically very important,” said David Pere, a lawyer for the French Association of Victims of Terrorism.
“I expect him to be extradited,” said a lawyer for the victims’ families, Romain Boulet. “We’re very eager to hear this man’s explanations.”
In addition to Abu Zayed, France has already issued international arrest warrants for two suspects in Jordan and another in the West Bank.
Jordan has repeatedly refused to extradite the two suspects.
The affair is all the more explosive given media reports of a secret deal between French intelligence services and the Abu Nidal Organization under which the latter’s members would not be arrested if they refrained from committing further attacks on French soil.

Afghan security forces confirm killing of top Al-Qaeda leader

Updated 26 October 2020

Afghan security forces confirm killing of top Al-Qaeda leader

  • Egyptian national Abu Muhsin Al-Masri was on the US most wanted terrorists list
  • Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) said he was killed in a special operation in Ghazni province

KABUL: Afghan security forces have confirmed the killing of a senior Al-Qaeda leader in Ghazni province, eastern Afghanistan, prompting the country's president to accuse the Taliban of having links with the terrorist network.

Egyptian national Abu Muhsin Al-Masri, alias Husam Abd-al-Ra’uf, was on the US list of most wanted terrorists. The US issued a warrant for his arrest in December 2018.

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) in a tweet late on Saturday said that Al-Masri was killed “in a special national security operation.”

Following the announcement, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accused the Taliban of having links with the terrorist group.

"The killing of this significant leader of Al-Qaeda's terroristic network proves that there is still the threat of terrorism and Taliban have ties with terrorists," he said on Sunday afternoon.

According to NDS sources in Kabul and Ghazni, he was one of the most senior leaders of Al-Qaeda.

“Al-Masri was one of the most senior Al-Qaeda authorities and was a financial and logistical facilitator of the network and had meaningful ties with Taliban,” the source in Kabul said on condition of anonymity.

He added that an Afghan affiliate of Al-Masri was arrested during the raid.

An NDS officer in Ghazni said that Al-Masri was killed in Andar district, where scores of foreign militants have settled in recent years and have been “protected by the Taliban.”

The Taliban deny the claim.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Arab News that Al-Qaeda has had “no ties with the Taliban” since the historic US-Taliban peace accord in late February. In accordance with the deal, the Taliban pledged to sever ties with foreign militants and deter them from using territories under the group’s control.

The US invaded Afghanistan and in late 2001 ousted the Taliban government, which refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders accused of being behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 that killed 3,000 Americans.

The terrorist network has been decimated over the years, but US officials believe its fighters are still operating in Afghanistan and some have deep ties with the Taliban.

Al-Masri’s reported killing comes a year after the NDS announced that in a joint raid with US troops it had killed Asim Omar, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent. Omar was reportedly killed in southern Helmand province — a Taliban stronghold.

A former Afghan spy master, Rahumatullah Nabil, in a tweet said that Al-Masri and some other members of Al-Qaeda were frequently traveling between Ghazni and other parts of Afghanistan and a tribal region in Pakistan’s north in recent months.

The head of the US National Counter-Terrorism Center, Chris Miller, confirmed Al-Masri’s death in a statement, saying that his “removal” was “a major setback to a terrorist organization that is consistently experiencing strategic losses facilitated by the United States and its partners.”

According to Afghan analysts, however, a replacement for Al-Masri will soon be found within the terrorist group’s ranks.

“The killing will have some impact on the network’s activities and the war in Afghanistan, but not a drastic one as new leaders will jump up to fill the gap,” security analyst Ahmad Saeedi told Arab News.

The development comes as an uptick in deadly violence has been observed in Afghanistan despite ongoing talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar to yield a lasting peace and end decades of conflict in the war-torn country. 

At least 20 people were killed at an educational center Kabul on Saturday, hours after a roadside bomb killed nine civilians east of Kabul. Officials blamed the Taliban for the roadside attack.